When I think of my dad, I think of the outdoors. I think of mountains, and trails, and lakes full of fish, and trees. I think of vast open skies and shimmering rain and air so crisp it almost hurts your lungs. I see beaches extending for miles, stretches of highway leading nowhere and everywhere, sunsets scorching the desert. I can smell the musk of the forest floor, the sweetness of wildflowers, the crackling smoke of a campfire. It feels like the exhilaration after a long run, the cool shock of jumping into the ocean, the rewarding pain of a blister from a day’s hike. And when I listen, I hear his laugh. Pure, childlike, contagious, ringing through open fields.
When I think of my dad, I think of compassion. I think of him as a missionary, in Africa in his 20s, then again in Thailand with my mother and me as a baby, and my brother born in Bangkok. I think of how he’d give away every cent he earned if we would let him, of the tenderness he feels towards those in need. I hear him talk about his sisters, my aunts, his parents, my grandparents, and I feel the weight of his love, his desire to ease their suffering.
When I think of my dad, I think of food. I think of pancakes and waffles and fried eggs on toast. (How lucky I was to have a dad who made us breakfast before school every morning!) I think of grilled cheese sandwiches, and hot dogs and hamburgers, and all those bachelor foods he cooks so well. I see him going back for seconds, and thirds, finishing everyone else’s plates, a human garbage disposal. It’s that Dutch metabolism – eat and eat and eat and never gain a pound. I taste ice cream and brie and chocolate chip cookies and all the things I shouldn’t eat but can’t help myself when I’m with him. In his world, the concept of dieting has never existed. So much the better.
When I think of my dad, I think of honesty. I think of the time my parents came home from the symphony and I lied about walking the dog. The look of disappointment in his face- I never wanted to lie again. I think of the business my parents ran, and how he never in a million years would rip anyone off. And if an accident was made, an overcharge here, a misstep there, he would be the first to correct it. For him, honesty isn’t the best policy, it’s the only policy.
When I think of my dad, I think of sports. I think of marathons and tennis and golf and skiing. I picture him on the court, racket in hand, 7am down at the club. My jaw drops when I hear he played 106 holes of golf in a single outing… in 105 degree heat. I remember Columbia Park and batting practice and learning how to field grounders and catch pop flies. I see him cheering at basketball games, and track meets, and cross country finish lines. I taste the sweetness of the win and the bitterness of the loss made so much better by his embrace. I still want to call him after every long run, every hard work out – “Dad! Look what I did!” He’s always proud.
When I think of my dad, I think of traveling. I think of Thailand and France and Mexico and cruises. The Cruisemeister, we call him. Always searching for that great deal, that next getaway. I think of happy hour on hotel balconies, fresh snow on the slopes in Canada, hiking through the forests of Angkor. I hear his snoring in shared rooms in Dordogne, and it bugs me and comforts me and I feel grateful. I smile at his fanny pack – the money belt – and label him the Original Hipster: Mustache Not Ironic. We twist his arm to take a photo at the Alhambra, and he obliges, grumbling. My dad is so handsome, I think, pouring over travel albums made by my mom with love.
When I think of my dad, I think of happiness. I think of ridiculous songs sung in minivans on road trips, tears of laughter streaming from my eyes. I think of inside jokes and outside jokes and silliness and teasing. “Wibbly wobbly” and “beddy bonkers” and “crab bites” and tickling, so much tickling. He smiles and I smile, he laughs and I laugh. He calls me Baby Amykins and my heart practically breaks with joy. I’ll be 55 years old and he’ll still be calling me that and it will be as true as the day I was born. How wonderful to be his Baby Amykins. How blessed to have him as my dad. How lucky to be his beloved little girl.
I love you, Dad. Happy Father’s Day.